“We certainly dodged a bullet with Hurricane Amelia,” he crooned. “Call it luck, fate, or divine intervention. Call it whatever you want. We’re grateful to be here to tell the tale of the hurricane that never was. And what tales we have to tell today. Our topic is elderly drivers. Should they have their licenses revoked? Should there be an age restriction? Phone in and tell us what you think. You have a say. Your opinion matters.”

“That’s right,” Abigail agreed. “I do have a say.”

After she finished unpacking, she went downstairs and tidied the dining room table, storing the army of batteries and flashlights in the kitchen with the hope she wouldn’t have to put them to further use in the near future. That done, she had one task left to do. Check on the oil pail.

The whitewashed walls of the lighthouse tower gleamed in the daylight. Abigail climbed the stairs briskly before she could change her mind.

“You can do this,” she told herself. A faint echo resonated through the lighthouse, repeating the phrase.

The view from the lamp room was stunning. The Atlantic was placid and glassy. The horizon was a plain line between the sea and the limitless sky.

Abigail closed her eyes and pivoted to face the spot where she’d put the oil pail. Fear was making her dizzy. She could feel how high up she was, how far away she was from the ground. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes.

The oil pail was right where she had left it, askew under the plaque.

In that instant, the proof she had been seeking no longer interested her. Proof wasn’t what counted. What counted was everything except the oil pail and what it signified. Whether Mr. Jasper existed or not, he had loved the lighthouse. He belonged there. She belonged too.

Abigail had indeed been haunted. She’d been haunted by never. That was what she’d defined herself by: the husband she would never grow old with, the son who would never blossom into a man, the life she would never recapture. It was up to her how she labeled what was to come. From the top of the lighthouse, with the whole world to behold, never was suddenly besides the point. It was only a word.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTSMany hugs and much gratitude are due to my friends for all of their encouragement and support. Alphabetical order has never seemed so appropriate. Thanks to Sarah Baldassaro, Ann Biddlecom, Ruth Blader, Claudia Butler, Alice Dickens, Anne Englehardt, Beth Foster, Debra Keeler, Amy and Brad Miller, Alex Parsons, Grace Ray, Sally Smith, Heather Stober, Caroline Zouloumian, and Sue Zwick.None of this would have been possible without my amazing agent, Rebecca Oliver, and my talented editor, Danielle Perez. A thank you is also in order to the many real-life lexicographers who have come and gone because without the dictionary my job would be far harder and considerably less interesting.

AN INTERVIEW WITH ELLEN BLOCK CONDUCTED BY THE MAIN CHARACTER, ABIGAIL HARKERIt’s a rare opportunity for a character to interview her creator, so I, Abigail Harker, hope to learn something about the author of this book while letting you, the reader, get to know more about the person who brought me to life.Abigail Harker: You crafted my character to be logical to a fault, then you had me live in a supposedly haunted lighthouse, a concept that flouts reason and common sense. That begs the question: Do you believe in ghosts? Or did you just want to see me sweat?Ellen Block: Both! I’ve always been fascinated by the paranormal. Less for the fright factor and more because of the bigger issues raised in the debate—life after death, the existence of the soul sans body, and the subject of why a ghost would choose to remain in a place that was no longer its own. Your job as a lexicographer, albeit fictitious, is to pin down words and hone definitions to perfection. My job as an author is the exact opposite. A novel is intended to encourage open-ended deliberation and discussion, to get readers thinking about ideas they might not normally wonder about in their daily lives. Haunted houses are usually seen as Halloween attractions or scary movie fare. What if there was some credence to the notion? What if hauntings were commonplace? Would that make a “haunted” location more or less scary?AH: Um, hello! You stuck me in that creaky, creepy old house, and yes, it was unnerving at first…though the horrible dcor and rickety furniture was just as terrifying, quite frankly. Thanks for that too, by the way. So, would you live in a haunted house?EB: I might stay the night to see if anything weird would happen, but no, truth be told, I doubt I’d take up residence. I prefer plotting out spooky sequences to actually being spooked.AH: Speaking of weird, why on earth did you make bingo the beloved pastime of Chapel Isle’s residents?EB: Bingo is a great game! It’s not about skill, competition, or squashing your opponent. It’s about luck, a theme that’s woven into the story. Plus, I played bingo once while visiting the island I based the setting on and won a fishing trip. So how could I not put it in there?AH: While I wasn’t happy about everything you wrote in the book, including turning me into a hammer-wielding security guard and forcing me to face how my life had changed after the house fire, you did allow me to meet a number of amazing, often quirky, characters on Chapel Isle. Which of them was your favorite? Besides me, of course.EB: Of course! Well, that’s a tough one. It’s hard to choose. I love Merle Braithwaite’s sense of friendship, Lottie Gilquist’s from-the-heart laugh, Bertram Van Dorst’s humble brilliance, Ruth Kepshaw’s hilarious, off-the-cuff candor, Sheriff Larner’s desire to do right by his family, Denny Meloch’s innocent exuberance, and Nat Rhone’s loyalty. A good character is like a good friend. Sometimes you love them for their endearing qualities. Other times you want to throttle them for their flaws. But most of the time, you’re just happy to have gotten the chance to know them.AH: Since you made my character an ardent lover and champion of words, I have to ask: What’s your favorite word? EB: I’d pick “ebullient.” It’s from the Latin ebullire, “to bubble,” and as an adjective, it means having or showing liveliness and enthusiasm. It can also mean boiling or agitated. Such a stark contrast in a single word is pretty impressive, yet it always sounds upbeat to me, which is why I like it so much. To be full of life, vitality, and enthusiasm is great for a word, and it’s also a great way to be.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORYThe idea for this novel came from a collection of happy memories as well as a single, heartrendingly sad one.Grief defies description. The colossal awe experienced in the wake of the attacks on September 11 simply cannot be compacted into words. In the aftermath of such a monumental catastrophe, language seemed painfully insufficient. For a writer like myself, that was a difficult and confounding feeling. A week after the attacks, I saw a woman from my hometown of Summit, New Jersey, being profiled on 60 Minutes as she went from hospital to hospital, searching in vain for her husband, who had been killed in the Twin Towers. She was a woman I’d passed by in the grocery store countless times, and there she was on national television, crying, scared, bereaved, a victim.Like so many, I was deeply affected by that day’s events. I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of one survivor’s grief, let alone that of thousands. Since the attacks, I’d wanted to create a character whose life was dedicated to language and definitions, but who must deal with that which cannot be defined. The character who evolved was a lexicographer named Abigail Harker, a widow who has lost her entire family in an accidental house fire. Haunted by the death of her husband and child, she volunteers for a position as caretaker at a lighthouse on a remote island called Chapel Isle. There she discovers that the lighthouse may be haunted by the ghost of its former keeper.This fictional isle is loosely based on Ocracoke Island in North Carolina’s Outerbanks, where I spent summers during my childhood. I remember my trips there fondly and always wondered what the island would be like once tourists like me went home. The sense of separation and intense isolation coupled with the close-knit camaraderie of a small community made it an ideal destination for a

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